Monday, 26 May 2014

The light at the end of the tunnel... and the beginning of a new one?

I'm writing today, seven days away from my final essay deadline and eight days away from my final School Direct PGCE Assessment.  I realise it's been a long time since I last wrote anything, the blame for that partly comes down to being very busy and partly due to there not really being very much to write about.  The last half term has flown past (helped, of course, by only being 5 weeks long) and has been jam packed from start to finish.

Over the last term/half term I have taken on more hours of teaching and with that the responsibility for parents evenings, report data and everything else that comes with it.  The pressure on me has been raised higher than at any other point in the year as I've essentially been doing a maternity cover but whilst still being a PGCE student.  This has meant less regular feedback as I have not had a class teacher there or my mentor to observe me as frequently as she had been.  For all the negatives that this has brought with it in terms of pressure I am choosing to see the experience as fantastic preparation for September when my NQT workload would usually come as a shock to the system.

The last week or so has been a final rush to get my Record of Development finished.  Luckily for me I only have to compile one lever arch folder of evidence that I have met the teachers standards.  I know people on other programmes that have to hand in 5 and people in the past who had a lot lot more.  I can't help but feel like it's a box ticking exercise though, can I find a lesson plan that proves I used peer assessment?  Where is the evidence that I differentiate?  Can I prove that I allow students to work independently?  Where is my marking to NC Levels and GCSE grades?  When have students reflected on their own learning?  Clearly this list could go on forever.  This folder is meant to show how I have met all these standards 'regularly and holistically' (or a similar wording) so it is a chunky thing!  My final assessor only has about 30 minutes to go through this, meaning that much of what I am giving to her won't even be glanced at, a slightly depressing thought to say the least...  At least the stationery geek in me has made an appearance with all these tabs:

As well as making sure the RoD is up to scratch this week I need to plan my lessons for the first week back (including 20 minutes of observation for my final assessment), prepare for the final assessment interview, mark some homework, oh and write 4000 words of Curriculum Studies assignment!  Who said half term was time for a break?

My final assignment has to be on a topic related to teaching in my specialist area, so I have chosen to look into vocabulary learning.  Having got quite into the research behind my last assignment and receiving a mark I was really pleased with I have tried to put my all into this one.  The result is that I am drowning in paperwork and more data than I am possibly going to need for the essay.  Luckily, some of the data I've gathered is interesting and useful for me as the class teacher as I can see a lot about the students in the class and how they performed on vocabulary tests but it won't be a huge amount of use to me for the essay which is a shame.  I won't say too much about the essay now as I've not actually written it yet.  In summary though, I have been testing a range of vocabulary learning techniques in students homework and seeing which they prefer and why in terms of what they like and what helped them learn more.  I have also taken teachers perceptions of techniques, thanks to the #MFLTwitterati and compared this to my students' responses.  Now the task is to bring it all together...

I'd been interested in the research side of education for a while, I took a minor course in Psychology in Education in my first year at university and it's taken me from there.  Whilst most people around me have been saying how pointless they think the PGCE essays are I've been enjoying them...  I'd been considering continuing my studies to masters level part time for a while now and I've recently had an email about an information evening for a locally run masters group via my current university.  I'm certainly considering doing it.  At this moment in time I don't know exactly where it will lead me, but I've always been interested in higher education so if many many years in the future I end up back in universities in one way or another it really wouldn't surprise me.  Things are changing so rapidly in education that I don't think it can be anything other than positive for me to do it, other than the strain on my workload that is.  However, I'd rather continue now whilst I'm still in the habit of writing and researching rather than try and come back to it later on.

I've now had my last Wednesday training day (with the exception of a visit to a special school in a couple of weeks time), meaning that after half term I will be in school 5 days a week, on a teaching timetable very similar to that of an NQT.  Our last couple of training sessions have been on looking to next year and becoming NQTs and reflecting back over the year we've been through.  It seems very odd to think I only met these people last July/August and we're nearing the end of our time together.  Many of the trainees are remaining in schools in the area and so will be in regular contact but I am going to be teaching much closer to home which takes me out of the area I've trained in.  One thing I have learned this year though is that everyone in teaching seems to be connected in some way with each other and I'm sure our paths will cross again in the future.

At some point when the final assessment is done and this essay (that I am yet to write...) has gone I'll get around to summing up the year.  I guess I've got 8 weeks until the official end of the year to get that done though.  There is so much I want to start thinking about for next year!  Just need to keep myself restrained for another week or so.  For now I have 4000 words to write.

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